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Playing with fire

It’s far more offensive than the c-bomb, but unlike the c-bomb there is never an ‘appropriate context’. Fire-crotch. It rates higher on the ‘say that again and I’ll whoop your ass’ scale that than the oft-asked obscure question about my home décor: ‘does the carpet match the drapes?’ Then again, that might just be my ferocious red-headed nature.

I take comfort from a fundamental rule of fashion which says that if you were bullied for it in high-school, sometime soon it will be the new black. Like gap-teeth and bow-legs, I know it won’t be long before the red renaissance arrives.

Having bleached the red right from my head, I am a keen observer of the revolution being driven by out-and-proud celebrity flamers such as Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Christina Hendricks and the very ginger spice, Geri Halliwell. British beauty, Lily Cole has blazed her way to the top of the supermodel ladder, gracing Vogue and Playboy and commanding top runway shows. There’s no arguing with Chanel: that ging’s got it.

But as much as the celebrity set seem to cruise along without suffering an ill-inspired offensive, I am intimately familiar with the risks.  You can’t get away with petty theft, subtle party exits or extramarital affairs. When the crowd asks, ‘who did it?’ Everyone will know it was that redhead. They will point and stare. That’s why it’s so important to put on a good show.

Successful red-bombs can drip 50s glamour with cherry red lips and corseted waists or embrace an otherworldly ethereal romance like the Botticelli angels. But, like a parrot amongst pigeons, whatever they choose they will be stared at.  Not only because they are shiny bright things, but because everyone knows just the sort of people they are.

Songsters love to croon about the ginger heart-breakers who screwed them over. Dolly Parton’s husband-stealing buddy Jolene ‘with flaming locks of auburn hair and eyes of emerald green’ springs to mind. She may have been the very same wanton miss who convinced Bruce Springsteen that ‘it takes a Red-headed Woman to get a dirty job done’.

Even literary types who should know better have a lot to say. In Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathon Swift wrote ‘the red-haired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest’. Mark Twain, bless his cotton socks, said ‘while the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats’.

Some would argue that reds suffer from nothing but the jealous rages of the not-so-vibrant blondes and brunettes. Medieval poppy-cutters cited beastly moral depravity, others labeled them witches, werewolves or vampires because of their ‘unnatural’ appearance. Most enduring is the belief that redheads have fiery temperaments, being both quick to anger and unappeasable in the bedroom. If that’s the best they’ve got to dish out, I’m not complaining.

If not quite fashionable, being red is a perfect excuse to make a statement. More than that, it’s expected that you will behave badly. So when ultra-inspiring questions are asked about carpet and curtains, or worse, that nasty F word, you’re well-within your rights to throw a vase across the room and scream a fiery ‘yes!’ Meoooow!

One thought on “Playing with fire

  1. I am a brunette surrounded by red headed siblings. I have spent my life being asked if I was the friend, or by those who could pick up on the family resemblance, cousin. Having grown up so, sometimes with hair envy, I feel somewhat like an honorary red head.

    And in my observational experience the only people who go along with the whole “red haired femme fatale” are generally sleazy old men. Most people these days, thanks to Summer Heights High, see red heads as “rangas”. So not only have my siblings had to suffer teasing growing up, but now every other islander/the general bogan population has deemed it acceptable to yell “RANGA!” out the car window as they pass. Or snicker at my sisters when we are out shopping.

    And I admire my older sister’s control in such situations, because for you to hurl a vase is exactly the reaction they’re after. I don’t understand this obsession with hair supposed “traits”. I have been asked about my sisters’ curtains/carpets. It isn’t pleasant at all, and makes me wonder where people get off asking such questions. And makes me fear for any future children of mine (they will undoubtably be red headed).

    These stereotypes against red heads feel almost like racism to me. I appreciate your humour on the subject, but I’ve had to defend my siblings on one too many an occasion for it to sit easily with me.

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